New Delhi: The hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru has been pending since August 2005, when the Supreme Court rejected his plea challenging the death sentence that was awarded to him by a Delhi court in 2002. Since then, the government has been under pressure from the Opposition and activists to hang Afzal Guru.
Sources say that the decision to hang the Sopore resident and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist was taken to counter the 'double standard' tag that the BJP attached to the UPA government after 26/11 attacks convict Ajmal Kasab was hanged. The sources also say that the UPA wanted to counter the resurgent Hindutva agenda of the BJP as well as to counter the damage done by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's 'Hindu terror' comment.
The government might have also felt that hanging Afzal Guru will not impact its Muslim votebank as it was an act of terror. The sources say that this is also a big indicator that the government is preparing for early elections.
Even as political parties upped the pressure to hang Afzal Guru, there were also groups that wanted his mercy plea to be reconsidered. Even as Guru remained on death row, some political parties and human rights activists claimed that he had not received a fair trial and pleaded that his sentence be commuted. There were groups in Jammu and Kashmir which were against the death sentence and this forced Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to refrain from endorsing Afzal Guru's hanging.
But after 26/11 Mumbai attack convict Ajmal Kasab's hanging in November 2011, the clamour for Afzal Guru's hanging grew. The government was yet again under pressure from the Opposition to take a decision on Afzal Guru's death sentence. The government, however, remained tight-lipped.
It now remains to be seen whether the Opposition's anger against Shinde will subside by the government's action against Afzal Guru.
The hanging also comes days before the Budget Session of Parliament, while Ajmal Kasab's hanging came days before the winter session. This fact might be played up by the government to its advantage during the Parliament session.